North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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May 2, 2011

Storms may top 1974 outbreak


The violent tornado which roared through in Fultondale may go down as one of the worst twisters in recorded history.

While the damage wrought in the Fultondale was great, it paled in comparison to that caused by the same tornado in Tuscaloosa, Hueytown, Concord, Pleasant Grove and Pratt City. As of Friday morning, 19 people were reported killed in Jefferson County alone from this one storm, mainly in Pleasant Grove. And 36 were dead from the storm in Tuscaloosa County, nearly all in the neighborhoods of Alberta City and Rosedale, which Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox described as being “wiped off the map.”

Survey teams from the National Weather Service office in Calera area spread throughout central Alabama, surveying this tornado and numerous others. Their work will take several more days, but they already know that the twister which finally receded in Fultondale first touched own somewhere near the Alabama-Mississippi state line, in the vicinity of the Cuba community.

If aerial surveys confirm a continuous path of destruction from there to Fultondale, it is likely that this tornado may go into the books as the longest single tornado track on record, according to the NWS. In any event, the tornado is likely to be rated as an EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale for most of its path, the strongest measurement on that scale.

The supercell storm which produced the tornado was very long-lived, and spawning several more tornadoes along its way before finally dissipating in North Carolina.

The tornado was one of more than 300 that were part of an outbreak that began on Monday in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. One of Monday’s tornadoes nearly wiped out the town of Vilonia, Ark., just north of Little Rock. Over 300 tornadoes touched down over a four day period.

Several dozen twisters were reported in Alabama, and by Friday morning, state disaster officials had put the statewide count of confirmed dead at 210, more than those killed in all other states combined in this outbreak.

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